Strengths in tough times

I’ve always had a soft spot for ants, ever since I used to gaze for hours at their industrious, community efforts to rebuild the nests I had unearthed as a curious young lad. Such a seemingly insignificant creature capable of extraordinary feats.

Ants' nest

Ants – little, but amazing!

So I was delighted to see the ant recognised for its amazing strength and extraordinary feet (sic) in the recent Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council science photo competition: click here for the Telegraph’s report.

And human beings are also capable of great feats – astronauts visiting the moon, musicians captivating audiences, soldiers recovering from massive injuries to be an inspiration to others – and well done Amy Williams on her tiny skeleton bobsleigh at the Winter Olympics! What great courage, resolve and skill it must take to beat the world in such a hair-raising way. Click here to go to her website. I notice that Amy has both an ‘ice’ coach and a ‘strength and conditioning’ coach.

We can’t all win the skeleton bob, but we can all find ‘strength and conditioning’ to get us through tough times – and maybe even find greater fulfilment – as the economy continues to swirl ominously, like a dark, snow-laden sky, through 2010 and beyond.

Stormy sky

Call me Mr Gloomy but, despite the encouraging spring weather, we’re not out of the economic woods yet.

Post-election, there are going to be some very tough decisions and actions to be taken in the UK. For many, this may be something for our ‘leaders’ to sort out – but I believe we can all choose to be leaders in our own systems. Like ants sorting out the nest.

So where can we find those strengths? Here are six I can think of for starters…

Strength in capabilities, skills and knowledge – from experience and continuing training and studying – be open to learning opportunities which present themselves and tackle some new books!

Strength in self-belief and clarity, to know where you are going and to keep going, to have confidence and deal with your doubts – giving yourself some space to step back and reflect, ask ‘what would I really like to have happen?’ and make a note of (don’t overlook!) all the varied capabilities you already have and things you have already done well.


Take a broader persective of what you want, what you can do and who can help you

Strength from others – who is in your ‘systems’? Workplace, friends, family… I was delighted to have the origins of the word ‘conversation’ pointed out to me (and others at the Association for Coaching conference) last week – coming from ‘with’ and ‘change’. And in the feedback system that is any conversation, we are indeed changing together with others. Being truly present when listening to and talking with colleagues, friends and family can be a huge source of energy, affirmation and new ideas.

Meaningful conversation

Don’t let your ego get in the way of finding support and learning lessons

Strength from external ‘others’ – people who are not in your normal systems – professional advisers, teachers, consultants, counsellors and coaches – like Amy Williams’s strength and conditioning coach – who can bring different perspectives, approaches, processes, thoughts, awareness and supportive challenge to bring out your strengths. Perhaps a bit like jump starting your car battery when it’s run a bit flat…

Strength from ‘failure’ – this is one of the richest sources of learning if you allow yourself to be vulnerable enough to admit that maybe you’re not always right and it isn’t everyone else’s fault! It’s like being prepared to fall off your bike – when you were learning like a child, prepared to make mistakes, learn lessons and adjust what you do accordingly, then you were probably learning at your best! So take care to notice what’s happening and what is your role in that – and how you can change it.

Strength from parts of yourself you might overlook – those irritating ‘gremlins’ that pop up and nag or criticise or undermine you. Bastards! Or are they? How about being courageous and asking those voices what it is they want to have happen? The chances are it’ll be something constructive for you, even if it is uncomfortable. And maybe there is something you can do differently that will take you a step or two towards that. By accepting the legitimacy of the gremlins, there’s a chance you can combine your internal strengths, rather than have them fighting each other!


Here to help you!

And what could stymie all of the above? I’ll have a wild guess at… your ego!

Well I hope that’s been a useful read for you. Do let me know what other sources of strength you call on.

Thank you. Enjoy the Spring 🙂


"we can all find ‘strength and conditioning’ to get us through tough times - and maybe even find greater fulfilment"

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